Although the combustion of hydrocarbons is our primary source of energy today, the chemical reactions, or pathway, by which even the simplest hydro-carbon reacts with atmospheric oxygen to form CO2 and water may not always be known. Furthermore, even when the reaction pathway is known, the reaction rates are always under discussion. The shock tube has been an important and unique tool for building a data base of reaction rates important in the combustion of hydrocarbon fuels. The ability of a shock wave to bring the gas sample to reaction conditions rapidly and homogeneously makes shock-tube studies of reaction kinetics extremely attractive. In addition to the control and uniformity of reaction conditions achieved with shock-wave methods, shock compression can produce gas temperatures far in excess of those in conventional reactors. Argon can be heated to well over 10 000 K, and temperatures around 5000 K are easily obtained with conventional shock-tube techniques. Experiments have proven the validity of shock-wave theory; thus, reaction temperatures and pressures can be calculated from a measurement of the incident shock velocity. A description is given of the chemical shock tube and auxiliary equipment and of two examples of kinetic experiments conducted in a shock tube.